Customs and Border Protection officials removed a press release from the agency’s website providing details about the arrest of two Yemenis at the southwest border who are on the FBI’s terrorist watchlist, prompting an outcry from Republicans.
CBP officials on Monday announced that agents had detained a pair of Yemeni nationals who crossed illegally into the U.S. from Mexico, but by the following day the agency had deleted details about the arrest from its website and Twitter account, citing “national security.”
“The news release in question was not properly reviewed and contained certain disclosure and policy information related to national security that required CBP to remove it from our website,” an agency spokesperson told the Daily Mail late Tuesday.
Both men, one 26 and another 33, were arrested separately near the Calexico Port or Entry, in the El Centro Sector, in Southern California.
“#BREAKING #USBP agents arrest 2 Yemeni illegal aliens with #terrorist ties attempting to illegally enter the U.S. at the southern border. Both men are on the @FBI Terrorism Watch List & the No-Fly List. Border Security is #NationalSecurity,” U.S. Border Patrol Chief Agent Gregory K. Bovino wrote from his official account Monday in a now-deleted tweet.
Both men were reportedly arrested near the same port of entry and immigration authorities discovered a cellphone sim card underneath the insole of one of the 33-year-old detainee’s shoes.
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) April 6, 2021
Axios reported that four people on the FBI’s terrorist watchlist have been detained at the southwestern border since October 1; three men from Serbia and another Yemeni national.
Yemen has been fighting a civil war since 2014 when Iran-backed Houthi insurgents rose up against the Sunni government by taking control of the capital city Sana’a. Saudi Arabia began to intervene with a nine-nation coalition at the behest of the government in 2015.
The removal by CBP of the press release regarding the latest arrest, however, has upset Republicans who are now demanding to know why the agency appears to be covering it up. Specifically, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is asking for a classified briefing from CIA and FBI officials for all congressional leaders as well as Vice President Kamala Harris regarding the two individuals.
“Why did you take down your previously public tweet & press release announcing that two people on the terror watch list were apprehended exploiting President Biden’s open border policies? Transparency in name alone is not transparency,” Republicans on the House Homeland Security Committee tweeted at the CBP Tuesday.
.@DHSgov & @CBP Why did you take down your previously public tweet & press release announcing that two people on the terror watch list were apprehended exploiting President Biden's open border policies?
Transparency in name alone is not transparency. https://t.co/6SONcvlwAa
— House Homeland GOP (@HomelandGOP) April 6, 2021
According to Fox News, McCarthy’s letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray and CIA Director William Burns requesting a briefing said: “Through conversations with the Border Patrol and media reports, I have learned of the apprehension of foreign nationals on the Terrorism Watch List who were attempting to illegally cross our southern border. This highlights the ongoing national security risk posed by the border crisis.”
(Courtesy: Fox News)
McCarthy also noted that he and other Republicans visited the southwest border last month to see “firsthand” the “humanitarian and security crisis that has emerged.”
“The agents of the U.S. Border Patrol provided us with an eye-opening tour and briefings regarding the current crisis in El Paso and the operational challenges they face each day,” he wrote in the letter.
He added that during briefings with border authorities, “agents conveyed to us that they have apprehended individuals from not only Mexico and Central America, but also countries including China, Iran, Yemen, and Turkey.”
McCarthy also said that authorities “conveyed that they had apprehended individuals who are on the Terrorism Watch List.”
“These revelations were shocking and concerning, and for those reasons, I felt compelled to share them with the nation,” he wrote, adding that about 1,000 people per day were illegally crossing into the U.S. and successfully evading Border Patrol agents.
“While I am grateful to the Border Patrol for doing all they can, I have great concern about the number of bad actors that have escaped arrest and are residing in the United States,” the House GOP leader wrote. “We simply have no way of knowing if other terrorists have crossed the border undetected.”
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